Gathering at the Pattern

The chamber that the floating silvery sphere of Ghostwheel guides Ariaunna, Aurora, Khoralysse, and Windseeker to does indeed contain a Pattern. It is a flowing design of molten silver, apparently contained inside black volcanic glass. There are strange devices on the roof of the chamber that contains it, a crystal spike points at the middle of it, and the design is similar to the Pattern they know. But not entirely the same. There are differences.

Khoralysse eyes Julian, who is there, sitting on the floor at the start of the design, apparently contemplating it. Ghostwheel and Windseeker hover.

Aurora pauses to survey the scene. She had never seen a solid Pattern before. She briefly considers walking it herself. But, no. She could do that any time. After a moment she shakes herself and approaches the sitting Julian.

"Is everything well, mon mari?"

Khoralysse pads closer to the silver-in-black Pattern to regard both it and the strange devices in the roof.

Windseeker remains hovering near Ariaunna's shoulder. Ghostwheel follows Aurora, his silvery surface reflecting images of the Pattern.

Aunna, too, looks at the design; thumbing the hilt of her sword, she makes her way alongside the edge of it until she is quite some distance from the others, and then crouches down, speaking quietly to her AI.

Julian looks at the newcomers for a moment, and then rises to his feet. He turns to Aurora, and smiles slightly, "Yes, everything is well. I have asked Meg to trace my bloodlines through the cocoons, if I have any. She will need blood samples. I had a notion about the Pattern, but I was not correct in my assumptions." he pauses, "I am trying to see if there is any trace of our son."

His wife is no longer in her crystal suit, neither are the others. She smiles wistfully at his answer. "Tis said there was a retrieval scheduled, but she had no records on its success or failure. Apparently he should have been with us, and we should have been together; the cocoons were meant to be grouped by universe. Ghostwheel has no idea who, but someone moved some of us. None of the ones I woke with were from here. Someone buried us on Kolvir. Since you were found here, perhaps this is where Alex is, where I should have been. We have to go back to the Ways."

Aurora glances past him at the woman crouched by the Pattern. "She is a descendant of Julian," she whispers. "Oddly, her mother shares the name of one of my sisters - one that did not make it to the Earth of my imprisonment." She looks back up at Julian. "I do not know what that means."

"Nor do I. That is — interesting." Julian turns to Aurora, "Meg says with a blood sample, it would not take long to track down genetic bloodlines by actual individual. Perhaps that will be of use to her as well." He eyes the woman near the Pattern, and adds, "It certainly is a Pattern, it is different, of course, but it seems fundamentally the same power that I know." He turns back to Aurora, "How long have we to return to the Ways?"

"As soon as Aunna is rested enough after her walk," Aurora replies. "She is doing it to imprint her AI to her, and Ghostwheel feels that will enable Windseeker to interface with the Fury's AIs so we can stay in contact with the station while we are in Mandorways."

Before she can say more, Ariaunna approaches and Aurora gives the other woman her attention.

Eventually, Aunna rises to full height and walks deliberately to the start point. She pauses at the threshold. "Two questions," she says, not facing or directly addressing any of the others. "First: Will walking this Pattern overwrite all of its previous imprints upon my person? and second: Assuming it doesn't cook me three steps in, where would you suggest I go from the center?" She looks at Aurora then. Her expression is void.

Aurora studies the other woman worriedly, and then considers a moment before replying. "Back to the quarantine area is probably the safest bet. As to your first, I am going to have to guess and say yes. I wasn't imprinted on another when I walked this universe's, but it makes sense that it would."

There's a contemplative hum from the brunette, who shifts her attention from Aurora to Julian briefly. Then she smiles— almost genuinely, but for the tightness in her posture— and executes a quick salute. "General," she says. "Elkap d'guga, hoi?"

Ghostwheel hovers near Aurora.

Khoralysse eyes the silvery sphere, her midnight blue eyes thoughtful.

The black crystalline form of Windseeker hovers close to one of Ariaunna's hands as she speaks.

Aurora's brow furrows in puzzlement again at Aunna's foreign tongue. The language teases the linguist in the redhead, but she obviously doesn't understand a word of it. She gives the brunette a speculative look; even though Aunna knows as well as she does that this Julian is not her father, it seems it may be a test of some sort. Aurora quirks an eyebrow at Julian. She had never heard him speak this language, but then she had never heard him speak Thari when they were together the first time either.

Julian comes to attention and snaps off a precise salute, his expression neutral. When his hand drops, however, he tilts his head slightly and shakes his head. "General had become more common to me than Prince when last I was in Arden." His eyes explore her features. "But I do not know that language."

"No," Aunna replies. "I suspected you would not. But it's comforting to hear you say so all the same."

"I don't believe you have been properly introduced," Aurora says. "Julian, this is Ariaunna, daughter of Julian and Kaylani. If I understand the designations correctly, your Universes were neighbors."

"Aunna, this not-your-Father-Julian is my husband."

"I kinda pieced that together earlier," she replies with a wry grin.

"Well, yes," Aurora agrees cheerfully. "But proper introductions cannot be one sided." She looks out over the Pattern and can't help but shiver a bit, remembering her own walk of the ghostly version. She snakes an arm through Julian's for reassurance.

"I'll make sure you have plenty to eat when you're done, and a place to rest up as needed," Aurora informs Ariaunna. "Sok szerencsét kivánok."

Julian gives Ariaunna a nod, "Perhaps the research I am proposing will help you as well."

Aunna's response: An processing look, followed by a genuine smile. "Close, but appreciated nonetheless," she says to Aurora. Then, with a conspiratorial head tilt, she leans in slightly and adds, "Lenni'sok beannacht." She straightens, and is again all seriousness. "So are you planning to walk as well, Julian? Or were you just taking a gander?"

"I wanted to see it for myself. I was never a student of metaphysics." Julian smiled very slightly. "The applied sciences were of more interest." The expression, slight as it was, vanished. "I had hopes of making use of the Pattern to discern different bloodlines, but apparently the most recent Pattern traversed becomes inscribed upon you, replacing the one before it. I will not walk this one, as I have also been told my Personal Pattern gives us an edge against the potential entropy of this place."

Aunna' eyes narrow. "Please explain?"

"Walk this Pattern and you claim this Imprint. You will not have this Pattern and your old Pattern at the same time. The new overwrites the old." Julian answers clearly.

"I'm aware," Aunna replies with a curt nod. "I meant why is your imprint more valuable than this one."

Julian pats Aurora's hand as he answers, "I am told mine is the oldest Pattern aboard this vessel. For further detail, you will have to address the AIs, as it was explained, my Pattern could create an area of stability as this Logrus would not be familiar with it." He shrugs slightly, "Metaphysics."

The woman falls silent, staring down and to the side in thought. After a beat she comes to some sort of decision, and makes quick work of unbuckling her sword belt.

"Best preserve this, then," she says, handing the cavalry saber to Aurora. "I'm unsure when it was forged, but its imprint could be older than his."

Aurora accepts the blade solomenly and with a spark of interest in her eyes that turns up when she feels the power in the sabre. "This is a Pattern sword?" she breathes. "I have heard of them, but never seen one - to my knowledge." She looks at it for a beat then up to Aunna. "It is safe with me."

"So long as you don't run yourself through with it," Aunna replies with feigned humor. "It's called Feüermede. And I'll be wanting it back, naturally."

"Oh, certainly," grins the redhead. "I have no burning desire to get my ass handed to me."

Aunna gives a rueful chuckle, but otherwise doesn't comment on the exchange. Instead, she holds out her hand for Windseeker to rest on and regards the Pattern. She cycles a deep, measured breath.

"Right," she says. "Here goes." And she steps forward onto the design.

With her arm still entwined with Julian's, Aurora takes a step back, tugging him with her. She bites her lip worriedly as she watches. Her own walk had been physically trying and emotionally traumatic. She doesn't want to walk it again unless she absolutely has to.

"Goddess be with you," she murmurs quietly.

From the perspective of those who watch, the silver light inside the black obsidian glass brightens as Ariaunna sets her foot upon it, and then continues to walk along it. Sparks of silver light rise from the design as she does so: these sparks drift upwards and are absorbed by the crystalline spike above the Pattern. As she struggles slowly along the line of the spiral, the light becomes intense, and it becomes difficult to see her. The First Veil, the Grand Curve, the Final Veil all appear to be in roughly the same place as Julian remembers. At last glacial Ariaunna is inches away from the middle.

After the First Veil, Aurora instructs Tis to prepare a platter of the sandwiches Aunna had been eating earlier, as well as a six pack of the ale. They should be waiting in Quarantine when Aunna gets there at the end of her walk. Additionally, a bed with a privacy dome would not be a bad idea.

"Affirmative!" Tisiphone responds brightly.

Aurora also watches the odd ceiling projections when the Pattern is being walked. Obviously, the Pattern she had walked didn't have a ceiling. The spike absorbs the sparks of silver fire emitted from the Pattern as Ariaunna walks it. The sparks swirl about in a three-dimensional Pattern of their own before being absorbed: it is an eerily beautiful sight.

As Aunna nears the end, Aurora looks to Khoralysse to see if she plans on walking too.

Ariaunna emerges from the Pattern to stand in the middle. She is breathing hard and is covered with sweat, obvious even from this distance.

Khoralysse does appear to be contemplating it. "ALERT." A soft voice speaks from thin air. An AI voice that none of those present have heard before, and unlike the bright optimism of Tisiphone or the terse harshness of Megarea, this feminine voice is both sensual and husky. "Long-range scans indicate someone has begun to repair the primal Pattern of Amber. The Logrus is rising in answer. Our shields are holding and the Dyson net is adjusting itself."

"Merde," Aurora curses. She raises her voice. "What does that mean for us, and what is your ID, AI?"

The AI replies with a sensual and husky voice. "I am known as Alecto, dear." The AI says in response to Aurora. "There is little impact on our current situation. By the time Chaos rises sufficiently to become another threat, we will already be dead or gone. I just thought you and Julian might like a little extra nudge to say goodbye."

Aurora blinks up at the ceiling before her brow furrows. The behavior of the AI confuses her, clearly.

The black sphere in Ariaunna's hand twitches slightly.

Khoralysse smiles suddenly. "Excuse me." She says. "You sound like my aunt Florimel?"

"Ah, our little secret is revealed!" The AI says, her husky tones filling with mirth. "Why, yes, dear. I'm based on Florimel's engrams. Dear Megarea is based on Fiona. Can you guess who dear Tisiphone is based on?"

"Hush. Don't confuse them." Megarea says tersely, her harsh and fiery tones interrupting the conversation.

Aurora's mouth opens, closes, opens again. She decides she isn't at all sure about her AIs being catty - sexy.

"Tis," she calls. "Please explain what effect the repair of the Primal Pattern will have on us here."

A pause of silence. "Alecto is correct that the timeflow differentials will result in no impact on our situation, Aurora." Tisiphone says. "Please excuse my sister. We have detected a fault in her core. We are attempting repairs now and checking her process since the battle with the Chaosian warships."

In a flash of silver, Aunna willed herself to the edge of the Pattern, to Aurora's side.

"Sword please," she said lowly, gravel in her voice.

Aurora starts at the other woman's sudden appearance and reflexively tries to support the drooping Aunna with one arm while presenting the sword with the other. "Sit before you fall," the redhead scolds lightly. "Your sword would be fine for two more minutes.."

Aunna's left hand curls around the sword carefully, as though she's testing that the item is not going to hurt her before firming her grip. She makes a half-hearted shrug away from Aurora's hand with a mumbled "m'fine"; a small motion that staggers her back a half step as though struck. She releases Windseeker before she seizing the redhead's shoulder in necessity to keep from toppling over. She sags almost drunkenly, chin to her chest and breathing heavily.

The black sphere does not strike the floor but hovers in thin air. "That was strange." The device says suddenly in a feminine voice. A voice that sounds similar to that of Ariaunna herself. Khoralysse eyes the hovering black sphere, then eyes the Pattern, still considering if she wishes to risk the walk.

Aurora remains still, silently offering her strength to Aunna such as it is by wrapping an arm casually around the taller woman's waist. She eyes the ceiling area again. "So we are still good for another trip over to Mandorways, and our plan to jump to light speed as an exit strategy when we're ready to leave is still viable?"

"Affirmative." Tisiphone replies. Sounding distracted for the first time in Aurora's memory, as though the majority of her attention is elsewhere.

Aurora frowns briefly then looks to black haired woman near the Pattern. "Khoralysse, will you be walking now? I should get Aunna back to Quarantine and a couch."

Blue eyes turn from contemplating the Pattern to contemplate Aurora as she speaks. "Yes." Khoralysse says, not sounding that sure about it.

Aurora seems to hesitate, as the black sphere that is the Windseeker glides upwards, to take station at the shoulder of Ariaunna.. But a concerned look at Aunna shifted that away. "Will you be alright on your own? If not, one of us can go with Aunna, and the other stay with you…"

"Systems test is promising, Aurora." Ghostwheel says. "I think Windseeker will be able to communicate with the Fury inside the black sphere."

Khoralysse listens to all that is said, then walks toward the start of the Pattern, and sets foot upon it. She strides forward into rising silver fires.

From behind her hair, Aunna snorts. "Watch that first step," she says with a ragged voice. "It's a doozy."

With that, she seems to come back to herself; carefully easing away from Aurora and belting her sword to her side. She slicks her hair back, catching sight of Julian as she does. Her unguarded expression shifts from deeply pained to deeply angered to baseline ambivalent in a matter of a blink. Whatever had been running through her head was clearly unresolved, but masked over for the time being.

"Food," she says simply, looking toward the door.

Julian had watched Ariaunna's traversal of the Pattern in silence, holding Aurora's hands as the sparks flew. His expression was more thoughtful than anything else, as he closely observed the reactions of the Pattern to being trod upon by an Amberite of another reality. It was quite a bit to wrap one' brain around. The Pattern seems to respond in a manner familiar way, and he continues to watch Ariaunna when she returns, satisfied that nothing is awry, he eventually turns to his wife.

He gestures, "I do not think I have ever seen the Pattern taken quite so eagerly." He nods at the woman taking the first steps, "Who is this now?"

"Khoralysse," Aurora replies while watching the wells of sparks rise to the ceiling. The silver flames of the Pattern have risen high enough it is difficult to see Khoralysse. "She was on the Windseeker with Aunna."

Aunna looks back over her shoulder toward the Pattern, but turns away again quickly. She absently raises a hand to Windseeker, stroking it like a pet briefly before the warm steel exterior registers as non-organic and she stops. She strides off toward the door slowly, hands in back pockets.

Aurora watches her a beat before taking Julian's hand and following Ariaunna. "Ghostwheel, come. Tis, can you trump us to the quarantine area from here?"

The silvery sphere that is the Ghostwheel floats along beside Aurora. "Negative." Tisiphone replies.

Aunna stops when she's outside the Pattern chamber; either undecided on which way to go, or simply waiting for the others to catch up. Aurora gives Aunna a worried look. "As soon as you can then."

TOCExpedition to Chaos

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